Friday, November 30, 2012

What “Shopping Locally” This Holiday Season Means to and for Authors

by Sophie Perinot

In the run up to the holidays I’ve been noticing a lot of “shop locally” buzz. I like the idea, really I do, but I’ll admit I am a shop-from-my-desk gal (yet another distraction from the WIP). That started me thinking about putting a desk-chair-potato (oops) writer’s spin on the “shop locally” theme. What if this year, we who love stories and make them, used our holiday shopping to support fellow writers?

Our writer friends are both “local” and a “small business.” Surprised? You shouldn’t be. You just have to think about it the right way. Chances are if you write, then—like me—you have dozens of author friends. They may not be “local” in the geographical sense but they are VERY MUCH part of your creative village. My author friends support me all year long—here at FTWA, online in Facebook groups, on the threads of AgentQuery Connect, with a well-placed tweet when I am ready to lay my head down on my keyboard and give up. I know many of them far better than I know the shop owners in my area and—here’s the kicker—like those shop owners, WRITERS ARE SMALL-BUSINESS PEOPLE.

We forget this sometimes but we (writers) produce a product and bring it to market. Whether their wares are offered through a major publishing house or at Smashwords authors have to sell books or they don’t get paid. And most of your author friends (unless you know JK Rowling or Stephen King) are “mom and pop” sized businesses. Once their writing expenses are subtracted from their earnings they likely have to hold down another job to make ends meet. They are not Amazon or Walmart. They aren’t even 7-Eleven. They are the corner store, whose owner is left at the end of many a day wondering how much longer it makes sense to keep doing this. So when we support our fellow writers we are supporting small, independent businesses. *warm fuzzy glow*

Sounds like giving the books of authors we know as gifts is the right thing to do then—the right thing for us. “But,” you ask, “can I support my fellow authors and still get the people on my gift list something they’ll enjoy?” I know why you are asking—we’ve ALL been victims of a gift that was more about the giver than the receiver (like that time Aunt Irma gave you a llama in Chile in support of her favorite charity, not in support of yours). Yes. Yes we can. I am here to assure you that ...

Books are more than a noble gesture—they actually make awesome gifts. If your gift list resembles mine, the folks on it have a wide variety of interests and personalities, but there is ONE thing they pretty much all have in common—they read. How perfect is it then that my writer friends create in a wide variety of genres? Regency and steampunk romances, literary novels, YA, historical thrillers, a novel of the Iraq war, I know writers who write it ALL. Looking at the output of my author acquaintances, there is literally something literary and appropriate for everyone on my gift list this season. There are also books in every price—from the complete set of the Folger Shakespeare Library editions of the bard’s plays ($6 a pop, more than thirty titles) that my daughter covets to the $0.99 cent e-book that might be a nice holiday “tip” for your pet-sitter.

So shop locally—from your desk or in your neighborhood—buy a book (or ten) by an author you know and send it to someone you love, like, or just owe a Secret-Santa gift. You won’t have to worry about size or color and you’ll support an entrepreneur and the future of your art.

Sophie Perinot's debut novel, THE SISTER QUEENS, tells the story of two 13th century sisters who became the queens of England and France. She wants you to know that it fits conveniently in a Christmas stocking (see picture)! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fake It 'Til You Make It

by R.C. Lewis

Lately I've had several people tell me they were surprised when I mentioned how terrified I am to get up in front of a group of people. "I never would have guessed you're shy."

Well, then, mission accomplished.

Yes, I am shy (and introverted ... see J. Lea Lopez's post on how they aren't the same thing). Always have been, from childhood right up to the moment I composed this post.

I'm also a teacher. That means getting up in front of people every day. So I kind of had to find a way to deal with it. My strategy: Fake it 'til you make it. I pretended I wasn't shy until the non-shy behaviors became a habit. As a result, I'm pretty comfortable in front of forty teenagers. A group of adults, on the other hand ...

Am I still shy? I feel like I am, but it's more like a switch I can turn on and off. I guess I'm "functionally non-shy."

Seems to me this strategy can be useful in a variety of aspects of a writer's life.

The most obvious—getting up in front of people at bookstore appearances, school visits, conference panels, etc. Fake it. Pretend to be an outgoing person, just as I've done in my classrooms over the years. Chances are, you'll fool everyone, and eventually yourself.

Marketing, social media presence, etc. makes you feel inadequate? Fake it. Pretend you're the most interesting version of yourself ever. (You write characters all the time, right?)

What about the writing process itself? Ever feel like a hack writing drivel that isn't worth the electrons in your computer? Fake it. Pretend to be a brilliant author writing fabulous prose. Don't let a conviction that what you're writing is crap keep you from moving forward.

But wait a minute! Faking it doesn't mean lying to yourself. When things need fixing or improvement, do what it takes. Study up, practice, get advice.

In all of the above, I guess the bottom line is to fake your way to confidence, and work your way to excellence. The first will keep you from sabotaging yourself before you get to the second.

Have you ever felt you had to "fake" something in your writer life? What strategies help you "make it"?

R.C. Lewis teaches math by day and writes YA fiction by every other time. Her YA sci-fi novel Stitching Snow will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Summer 2014. Meanwhile, you can find her at Crossing the Helix and on Twitter (@RC_Lewis).

Monday, November 26, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night...

by S. L. Duncan

Not too long ago, I got notes back from my agent on my new manuscript. It’s a weird thing sending your work out to someone who has both the power to crush months of work in a single blow or light the fuse of another possible dream come true.  What follows from the moment we authors hit send is a frozen, panicked state of fear while we wait for the worst.

Well, at least that's what happens to me. Hence my absence from the interwebs.

I’m thankful to report his enthusiasm falls somewhere on the latter end of that spectrum. After some light refocusing of plot, we’ll be submitting in Spring!

So long as the news is mostly good, I love getting notes. I know; that’s a stupid thing to say. It’s sort of like, “I don’t mind playing Monopoly, so long as I win.” But finding the better story in a good story is a blast. Trying to make a broken story work is ... well ... work.

Accompanying my good news was a list of the story’s strengths and weaknesses. As a story that takes place during World War II, atmosphere was an extremely important thing for me to get right. London during the Blitz had a specific feel and look. Its people spoke in a specific manner and rhythm. Somehow, according to my agent, I’ve managed to not screw that up.

So I want to talk a little about atmosphere, inspired in part by this post at my blog over at In the recipe of the narrative, atmosphere is like a stock or base—the foundation for where the world of the story will be built and the characters will (appropriately) live and breathe. Take for example a thriller or horror story, where atmosphere functions to encourage feelings of suspense or fear. It’s not just the dark and stormy night, by why there’s a feeling of fear and suspense. What about the world created by the author makes the characters (and thus the reader) feel fear and suspense?

I recently read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. If this book does anything brilliantly, it’s atmosphere. From the feel of the swamp to the look and attitudes of the characters, you are drawn into the world. Atmosphere is one of Russell’s sharpest tools, creating the sandbox that would inspire these characters and motivations. More than just setting, her atmosphere flavors the story with a specific reality unique to this story.

So how do you get atmosphere right? Well, I suppose that depends. For me, to capture the atmosphere of the Nineteen Forties London Blitz, I had the benefit of looking to a specific time and place in history. Using books, radio programs, war diaries compiled by the BBC, and films, I got a sense of how people lived in their natural environment during this unnatural time. Once you know what it was like to live in their world, in their reality, you can make character decisions that make sense in the context of the time and place of the specific story.

That’s atmosphere.

The trick is making everything connect. Character decisions, motivations, settings—all these things have to feel real and appropriate as they work together to weave the narrative. Atmosphere should be what bridges all these things together and form the reality.

What works for you? Any books out there that you’ve recently read that do it well?

S. L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, the first book in The Revelation Saga, due in 2014 from Medallion Press. You can find him blogging on and Twitter.

Friday, November 23, 2012

ASKgiving: Writing and Publishing Q&A

By the whole From the Write Angle crew (compiled and condensed by Jean Oram so any omissions leave her to blame)

As part of our AskGiving (Happy Thanksgiving weekend!) here on From the Write Angle, we took our reader's burning questions about writing and publishing (there were some good ones!), and put our group brain together to come up with some sage advice from the fifteen of us.

While this is based on our experiences, you may have had (or will have) different experiences. Feel free to weigh in and comment on these questions (and our replies) in the comment section. Power of the crowd!

All righty… Let's talk turkey. (And maybe grab an extra slice of pumpkin pie, we've got lots to say and we don't want you starving while you read.)

Am I Too Late to the Party?: Market & Timing

This reader has a project they first queried three years ago and has recently been drawn back to it. Their project has a male vampire antagonist and neither young adult nor a paranormal romance. "It leans more toward the horror category, or at least dark urban fantasy." Over the past few years, the market has become over-saturated with vampires and this reader wonders if an agent might oval-file their query without even a glance as soon as they see the word "vampire."

In today's market, is it even worth my time to query this story, even though it is different than the "norm?" I know about subjectivity and the "you never know until you try" thing, but I would really appreciate your honest take on this, as far as traditional publishing goes.

Marcy Kate O'Connolly steps to the plate with the real reason vamps are out: It's because of an oversaturation in paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels (both YA and adult categories). Your book sounds (from your description) as though it is more likely to be horror and I've heard that that genre is starting to make a comeback. Agents are actively seeking it out. You'll do best with a fresh plot that is not paranormal romance-y. Be sure to position the book in a way that makes it clear it's horror.

J. Lea Lopez shares some Twitter expertise from #tenqueries and #10queriesin10tweets on why agents pass on queries: Familiar tropes without anything to make them truly stand out. You have something familiar with vampires, so you'll likely need a unique twist and compelling voice/style of writing to grab an agent's interest. Make sure your query pitches the story in a way that emphasizes the horror genre and what's unique about your story so the last thing an agent will think of is any of those other vampire stories.

I Want to Share: Permissions & Copyright

I'm getting ready to self-publish my novel but I need to secure permission to three songs and two poems that I quoted within the text. However, upon conducting research to find the original publishing dates and the publishers of these works, I am stumbling. Is there a particular website that is devoted to helping contact these places to ask permission to quote their work? Or do I have to hunt them down one by one and somehow find the right source to ask permission? I know the easiest thing to do would be to just give up and delete the non-public domain poems, but at least one of the songs I need has to have a quote because that's where the novel takes its title from.

Using her librarian charms, Mindy McGinnis dug up this article which has lots of links and will walk you through it: http://www.copyright...information.htm. She also found this link for your poetry issues: http://www.audensoci.../copyright.html.

Marcy Kate, using her librarian-in-training charms, suggests you start looking here: They have a searchable database, but it only goes back so far digitally.

Meanwhile, J. Lea provides some optimism: We've all seen at least a few books that quote songs or other authors, so it's obviously possible. I'd pursue it as far as you can, and then if you go the traditional publishing route with an agent, they may have additional knowledge or resources on the subject.

Help, I Genre Hop!

What if you have very different books? Should you sacrifice an agent who would be PERFECT for the first book, in exchange for an agent who would be mediocre for both?

The general consensus on this one was best put by Sophie Perinot: You really can't "have your cake and eat it too" right out of the gate. You need to pick a genre, build a brand and THEN branch out.

Jean Oram added: "You never know if an agent is 'perfect' until you have had a conversation with them and they have read your work."

Marcy Kate: Don't rule an agent out based on what they state they rep initially as long as they rep the genre & category of your strongest project. When you get The Call, I can almost guarantee you they will ask about your other projects and where you see your career headed.

Matt Sinclair reminded us that: Some agents might think of writers who genre jump as dilettantes.

Jean says the real issue sounds like you have two very different books. This may actually mean you will need a pen name and have two 'careers' on the go--build two different brands. When you have very different books the issue becomes building an audience. This is the TOUGHEST part of being a new 'unknown' debut author and particularly if you genre hop. If your first book is in one genre and the second book in a different genre, it is going to be difficult to build a loyal audience who buys all your books--publishers like to see an increase in sales between books one and two (which leads to more book deals!).

Sophie Perinot has heard of well-established authors being told by their publishers to set aside some of those genres and get back to basics. "ANYONE who wants 100% control over what book (as in plot) and what genre they write next needs to stick to Indie publishing."

Game plan: Take your 'best' story (or the one you are most likely to be able to write a follow-up story genre-wise) and get an agent for that book. Worry about the other book later. You never know. The agent might be just as pumped about the 'other' book.

As Marcy Kate reminds: Most agents want to represent you for your career, not just one book. And your books may not be as different as you think. For example, if you write children's books (PB/MG/YA), you may have more wiggle room between age levels and genres than say a writer trying to launch a career on chicklit novel and a hard sci-fi space opera.

This Plot's Got it Going On… and Then Some

What if you have too much going, plot wise, in your book, but one event leads to another which leads to another; in other words, it's all connected. How do you pare it down?

Riley Redgate suggests looking for shortcuts. In other words: If you have a plot that goes from A to B to C to D, try looking for a smooth transition from B to D instead. Sometimes that'll involve cutting out plot locations or introductions of new characters - but then again, sometimes you never needed those locations or characters in the first place. I'd say the key to streamlining a twisty, convoluted plot is to think about the straightest logical path from your beginning to your ending. The plot points that deviate the furthest from that path are the things you should consider compromising.

J. Lea adds, See if there are characters or portions of your plot that can do double duty instead of having lots of little things going on. Also, take a long hard look at some of those subplots and twists and ask yourself two things: 1) do they really feel organic to the story, or do you get to a point where it feels like a soap opera, with yet another over-the-top complication before every commercial break? and 2) are they actually important plot points that need to be shown to the reader, or can some of them "disappear" into backstory that is only alluded to after the fact, when necessary?

Marketing My Own Work… Do I Have To? (Two for One)

Our readers realize times have changed in the publishing world and that publishers expect authors to help with marketing and promoting their own books.

What sorts of things do you do to promote? I'm guessing you can't rely only on your own social media. You have to go beyond that to reach out to people who are unknown. How do you get yourself in front of readers?


How important do you think it is to be a worldly, sophisticated, charismatic type of person when you are an author, in order to succeed? Do you think getting published is in the end more about good writing, or about being this charming sort of person?

J. Lea: The writing is always the key.

Marcy Kate warns: Social media is NOT for marketing. It is for engaging with other people and being part of a community.

Sophie says, being visible to the reading public these days means things such as getting reviewed by popular bloggers in your genre and setting up a blog tour, using Google ads, Facebook ads, trying author buzz, or doing a traditional book tour (signing and speaking at numerous indie stores). It can also include blogging and/or guest blogging.

But, she says the keys to whatever marketing you do are: 1) set a budget (minimum is generally suggested as 10% of your advance, but many debut author go higher); 2) make sure you KNOW who your reader is (write out a description of your target reader); 3) don't be scatter-shot in your efforts-- pick marketing outlets (real or virtual) that will expose you to the target reader you have defined (and that means not accepting every blogging invitation and not wasting time on promotion that will largely reach people outside your ideal audience).

And finally, she cautions: DON'T COUNT YOUR PUBLISHER OUT! They can get you reviewed places you likely cannot reach on your own and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL they can get you coop (paid space on the "New Release" table or an end-cap or window). A lot of authors will tell you that the weeks they spent in a featured location were by far the best selling weeks of their early release period.

MarcyKate throws a little research to back up Sophie's experiences: Studies have shown very little correlation between a social media presence and sales. HOWEVER, those same studies have shown that it is a fantastic tool for building brand awareness which is why having a social media presence is important and recommended. In other words, if you join Twitter, do not repeatedly link to your book on Amazon, or retweet your own blog links all day. Talk to people. Interact with them. Tweet about what matters to you or what you find interesting. In other words, be sure your profile (or timeline if you're on Facebook) isn't all ME ME ME.

Jean chimes in to add: Think of the 80-20 rule. 80% about others and unrelated-to-you stuff, and 20% about you. (It's easier to piss off your audience than to win them over.)

Marcy Kate also suggests you reach out to your local area. If you have local papers that review books or list events, send them (or have your publicist send them if you have one) a press release about the book's release and any local book signings or launch events you might be doing. You never know what might lead to an interview or profile, and that could definitely generate both sales and attendance at those events. Even if you don't have a big budget and don't have the advance funds to reach a national audience in a big way, there are still lots of little things you can do locally that can have a positive impact.

J. Lea: Being brilliantly charming with a mediocre or poor product won't get you very far. If you have a wonderful book but maybe you're a bit shy or introverted, don't worry. Let your words speak for themselves.

Your take-away--as put by Marcy Kate (but definitely echoed by all of us): "The book is the most important thing… That said, you still should keep your public-facing persona respectable and in a positive light."

Look Into Your Crystal Ball: What is the Future of Publishing?

With all the merges/acquisitions going on in the world of publishing, where do you see the literary future? In the hands of megapubs or in the hands of those who march to their own drummer (self-pub)?

J. Lea believes traditional publishing isn't going anywhere. It may change, but it won't go away. Self- and indie publishers are seeing wonderful growth right now, and digital publishing is giving voice to experimental or edgy writing that might have been overlooked in the traditional model.

Jean thinks that those who treat book publishing as an ever-changing business and are willing to change things up are more likely to succeed.

Sophie suggests that the best things a writer can do are: 1) write the best book he/she can; 2) keep up with the industry--developing your craft isn't enough you have to build your knowledge of the business side of things; 3) be flexible and ready to roll with the punches--if you have your mind set as to how things are going to be then chances are they aren't going to be like that at all; 4) know when to walk away--everybody has a point at which the rewards of writing might be outweighed by the hassle. As in any career/profession you are not an indentured servant. Know what your personal limits are and be ready to enforce them (for some this may be a dollars and sense equation for others a satisfaction vs. aggravation balance).

J. Lea also adds: What I think (or hope) will happen is that both the traditional and the indie sides will continue to grow, change, and thrive. I think the traditional model is going to have to learn a few things from the indies, especially concerning time from acceptance to publication. Likewise, there might be something in the gatekeeper model that can benefit readers who love indie books, but would like a better way to easily identify quality. Traditional and self publishing can certainly coexist happily in the same publishing marketplace. It's my hope that we continue to grow together, with each facet of the publishing world learning from the others, and continuing to produce quality books for readers.

To Hire Or Not To Hire: Editors Pre-Queries

If our manuscript has been edited by several critique partners, is it okay to submit to an agent as is (traditional publishing), or should we hire an editor prior to submission? Or would professional editing be handled after agent accepts your manuscript?

Sophie provides the short answer: It is in vogue. But a good editor can cost thousands and less editing is going on at the agent and editor level.

She adds: "If you have the discipline to rewrite and edit then surely you can find some good critique partners and get your manuscript in query-ready shape."

Jean says that if you feel it is strong enough, then submit. But if you get a lot of rejections, looking at your manuscript again might be the thing to do. Some good editors will give you an overall story report/critique ($300 for 90,000 words) which is handy if you feel it is something with the story and not the writing.

Help! I'm a Nobody in my Query Bio

In a query letter, especially in the instance of having no previous publishing experience, should we include a personal paragraph? I.e. What we do for a living, interests, etc. Some agents say they like to get to know the author, whereas, other agents say keep it strictly about the book.

One word that shouted through our conversation about this one: NO.

And a bit of… maybe.

Sophie's rule of thumb: When in doubt leave it out.

Or as Jemi Fraser says: Unless your bio is relevant it's okay to skip it.

Some exceptions:

Marcy Kate says that unless it is directly relevant, no do not worry about it. If you have professional marketing experience in work life, or have worked in publishing in some capacity, that's appropriate.

Jemi says, that if you feel naked without including one, a short one-liner would work - try to use your voice to your advantage.

Sophie: An agent who becomes enthralled with your query and subsequently your manuscript can have his/her curiosity about who you are satisfied when he calls to get acquainted. Bottom line: In fiction the work has to stand on its own. It either captivates or it doesn't.

The End: Should it Be in Your Query?

If the query letter is supposed to hit the main points of the story, does that include the end, or should we save that for the synopsis?

Short answer: No. (Don't include the end.)

R.C. Lewis: First off, I would never say a query letter is supposed to hit the main points of the story. Definitely not the end. A query doesn't summarize the story. It introduces just enough of it—the protagonist, the conflict, what's at stake—to become an enticing bit of agent-bait.

Sophie puts it another way: The query is about piquing interest. Details/events just need to be carefully selected and pithy.

Marcy Kate gives you a formula to help you out: A good rule of thumb is to cover approximately the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the manuscript in the query. By that point the story should have covered the inciting incident, the antagonist and the main conflict. When to give away the farm (the story's ending): In a synopsis.

Short & Sweet Credentials: The Short Story

Can/should writers self-publish a short story on Amazon? (I have this one story I want to put up because I don't want to go though the hurdle of selling it--I want to concentrate on my current work in progress. If I do end up publishing it, I plan on making it free.) Will agents be more attracted or repulsed by this? If its a short story and free, is there a chance they'll read it, find it engaging, and have more interest in your manuscripts?

Jean fires a few questions back to help you figure out what is right for you: "Why do you want to do this? What is your purpose? What do you hope to achieve?"

Our resident short story expert, J. Lea, says, I don't think it's likely to sway an agent. If you continue to publish short stories on Amazon, at least some for actual sale, and have good results, that might be something an agent would look at. A free Amazon story is no different than something you post on your blog, other than having the potential to reach more people. If you're interested in using short stories as a publishing credit to include in query letters, you're better off seeking publication in magazines or literary journals. Checkout for a searchable database.

R.C. adds: Some genres put more weight on having short stories published than others. Whether they care about it being published by a magazine vs. self-published probably varies by individual. I'm not sure not sure how many agents cruise around self-published short fiction—but I doubt it'd hinder, either.

Jean says if you are hoping it will pave the way for your manuscript, it likely won't. (Sorry!) If you hope it will build audience... it could. However by the time you have put out your ms, it is likely that you will have missed the timing in terms of converting the short story readers into novel readers.

She continues, as for impressing agents and publishing editors... it probably won't. Even if you get a ton of downloads they tend to disregard it because you are giving it away. They want to know how many people will pay for your writing. But if you put it up as paid, and it is a short story and you are an unknown... well, chances are you aren't going to get a lot of purchases.

So FTWA (From the Write Angle) readers, what do you think? Did we look at these questions from the write angle? Or are there things to add? Be heard in the comment section.

From the whole From the Write Angle crew, thanks for reading. We hope you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A few things I learned during the apocalypse

By Matt Sinclair

I know a lot of Americans are starting to feel the Thanksgiving crunch—that sense of pressure brought on by the beginning of the holiday season. We face the questions of where the meal will be held, who’s showing up where, who’s cooking what, and how do we keep so-and-so from hearing about you-know-what ...

Most years, I feel it also. This year, however, I’m concentrating on being thankful. I’m thinking about the many people and things to be thankful for because it’s more personal to me this year. As a result of Hurricane Sandy, my family and I were without power for eleven days. So I am thankful that heat and full power have been restored to us and to most of those living in my area of New Jersey. I’m eternally grateful to the neighbor who hooked me into his generator so I could heat my house, even when a second storm dropped six inches of snow into the survival equation and threatened the power to both our homes. I’m also torn about feeling grateful that we had no physical damage to our home and guilty that so many people lost everything. In a strange way, I’m also glad to have gained a personal understanding of how frustrating and altogether exhausting such an experience is. I feel like I’ve gained a partial understanding of the apocalypse.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the storm delayed publication of the new anthology from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse? Yeah, the irony was not lost on me or any of our team.

Indeed, I’m quite thankful for them, too, and the help they provided while I was left literally in the dark. Once I was able to get back online for small snippets of time to file for the copyright and publish the book, they helped spread the word. We’re still spreading that word, of course, because promotion is not a one-day event.

As writers, most of us are painfully aware that promotion is hard work, especially for people like us who tend to focus on the creation rather than the business. I’m sure most of you have heard ad infinitum that writers need to be their own best advocates these days. It’s true. Frankly, I think that’s always been the case, but when the big publishers have cut back or virtually eliminated their support for mid-list writers and small presses are hard-pressed to be noticed in the flooded marketplace, it’s even more imperative for writers to speak up for themselves.

All that said, I also relearned a few obvious things in ways I didn’t expect. These may or may not have direct bearing on writing. Add metaphor where you see fit.

  • Old habits die hard: I couldn’t tell you how many dozens of times I looked toward the digital clock on the stove to see what time it was. It’s worth your time to stop looking at the clock in your writing. Do what you need to do. Also, do your own self-assessment of your writing habits. Do your habits matter? Are they helping you or are they just quirks that might actually be getting in your way?

  • Disaster brings out the worst in people: Want to put your characters in a tense situation? Knock out their power for more than a week. Add a couple relatives or ex-lovers. Stir. In some recipes, include copious amounts of alcohol. Most recipes do not need an outside ignition source.

  • Disaster brings out the best in people: We all need hope in our lives. When writing apocalyptic tales, include at least one person who exudes hope. Kill him if need be. Metaphors and symbols are both powerful and fun.

  • Stupid is as stupid does: It’s great that some people have the means to get a generator and restore some of their amenities, but they should understand how to use the tools. I couldn’t tell you how many new generator owners in my area had to go to the hospital because they ran them in their basement or garage, where the exhaust fumes made them sick. In a similar vein, some writers don’t know what to do with the tools they possess.

  • Buy doughnuts: When a large group of people are stressed beyond reason, comfort food and carbs offer an opportunity to help them regain a sense of normalcy. Caveat: don’t tell everyone you’re bringing doughnuts unless you’re absolutely certain the shop has regained power….

  • Go to a playground: I know this only because I have small children, but a minute or two on a swing or pushing a child on a swing can do wonders for your morale in the face of difficulty.

  • Never let a crisis go to waste: I think Jean Oram, who served capably as the copy editor on The Fall, did this best. That irony thing. Nailed it!

I’m sure there’s more I could add, but the battery is running down on my laptop and I’m about to lose my connection to the modern world. What would you add? What are you most thankful for this year? What can you cut back on to help improve your writing?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published its latest anthology, The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, which is available via Amazon. Earlier this year, EBP published its initial anthology, Spring Fevers, which is still available through Smashwords, Amazon, and in print via CreateSpace. Both anthologies include stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette; R.C. Lewis and Jean Oram also have stories in The Fall. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Super Askgiving Publishing and Writing Questions Call Out

By Jean Oram and the whole From the Write Angle crew

Does something have you stumped about writing or publishing? Is there something you've always wondered about, but haven't found anyone to ask?

If you've got questions about writing and publishing this is your moment! (Even if you think you don't have any questions, this is still your moment!)

Details on the Askgiving Super-Mega Thank You to Our Readers Post

As a thank you for reading From the Write Angle, we would like to help you out this Thanksgiving. (Or… Askgiving you may call it from now on.)

Starting today we're asking you to send us your publishing and writing questions. It can be silly, curiosity-driven, deep, secret--whatever! The fifteen of us here at From the Write Angle have a wide variety of writing and publishing experience and would love to share our knowledge, tips, opinions, and expertise.

For example, we have experience in the following areas (as a few examples off the top of my head--you aren't limited to these topics): query letters, synopsis writing, grammar, short story writing, freelance writing, editing and editors, social media, nonfiction platform building, literary agent relationships (not dating them, but getting them, breaking up with them, working with them, communicating with them, etc.), getting The Call, blogging, working with a publishing house editor, handling book reviews, book cover design, starting your own indie publishing/writing business, author website design, Young Adult trends, self-publishing, the erotica market, writing/submitting for magazines/newspapers, balancing writing and 'real' life, NaNoWriMo, research for your novels, the children's market (MG and picture book), conferences, writing your pitch, writing scripts for television and movies, hiring an editor, starting your own author newsletter, the future of publishing, marketing/publicity, and much, much more!

All you have to do to is pop your question in the comment section of THIS POST. Or, if you would rather, you can email us your question at (Please put ASKGIVING in the subject line so we don't miss it.)

You have until midnight Monday, November 19th, 2012 to ask your question.

On Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, i.e. November 23rd, we will publish a new post here on From the Write Angle that will include your questions (anonymously) and our replies.

Thank you. We look forward to hearing your questions. If you have friends who have burning questions about writing and publishing, send them our way. The more the merrier around the From the Write Angle Askgiving table. (Pass the pie!)

Thank you for reading From the Write Angle.

NOTE: Questions and comments are now closed. See you on Friday for our replies.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twenty-Five Brief Excuses for Not Working on Your WIP Right Freaking Now

1) You're reading this list.

2) You're reading another list about writing. Possibly something meant to be motivational. Possibly something involving the publishing industry, something that relies largely on comforting words like "personal craft" and "unique voice."

3) You're stalking literary agents on Twitter.

4) You're stalking literary agents on their blogs.

5) You're stalking literary agents at their home addresses. (No. Bad. Stop.)

6) You're daydreaming about another idea which sprang into your mind as a fever dream at two in the morning and seemed brilliant, but which you promptly forgot. You think it was about something involving a duck. Maybe.

7) You're re-reading the bits of the WIP that you've already written. (It's initial analysis, okay?)

8) You're writing extensive backstory for your characters because look, it's important, it's part of the psyche.

9) You're on AgentQuery, QueryTracker, Preditors and Editors, or some other website involving other people who also should be working on their WIPs.

10) You're on Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, or some other website involving people who would have no idea what "WIP" meant were you to drop the abbrev in convo. (Their ignorance is comforting. Well, you think to yourself, I am farther along than all these people!)

11) You're debating character quirks with yourself. This character really likes cursing - should you rein him back? Will people judge you as an author or as a human being for his vulgar behavior? Moreover, will they judge you if your main character's second nephew has a penchant for speaking using only words that have the letter X? Or how about that girl you stuck into chapter seventeen who eats condiments without food? Is your book turning into an indie movie? What's even going on? Where are you? Who are you?

12) Okay. You've taken a break to eat. Things seem normal again.

13) You're still eating. You're feeling guilty about eating.

14) You're staring at the last sentence you wrote yesterday, rereading its final words over and over and over, attempting to find an adequate segue to the next scene you have planned, which shall be a Scene of Great Emotional Gravitas.

15) Someone from the Real World texts you and jolts you from your Mindset.

16) Someone from the Real World is talking to you. In person. You can't seem to converse, because all you can think about is how inadequate your dialogue is.

17) You're at work.

18) Just kidding. That's not an excuse. You're at work and the power's out.

19) Scrivener is still installing on your laptop. (It's been seventeen hours. You're considering buying a MacBook. Is this PC really worth the pain?)

20) You're drawing arcs. Character arcs. Plot arcs. Psychological and spiritual arcs. Vaguely parabolic arcs. You always knew Algebra 2 would come in handy at some point.

21) You're making a Writing Playlist on Spotify or iTunes. (You're getting desperate.)

22) You're moving to a location where your "emotional interiority can be the most focused". You're not even entirely sure you know what this means. (Oh, God, this is bad.)

23) You're considering becoming a poet instead. (You write commercial fiction, buddy.)

24) You're still reading a list some girl wrote on a writers' website. But you're about to finish that list. You feel mild panic descending upon you. You have no excuse, now.

25) Go. Write. Do it.

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a bookstore-and-Starbucks-dweller from North Carolina attending college in Ohio. She blogs here and speaks with considerably more brevity here.



In an upcoming post From The Write Angle contributors will answer your questions. What's it like to "get the call" either from an agent or a publisher? How do I get my MS in to Hollywood? How do historical writers do all of that research?

What are your questions for our contributors? Keep an eye out for our upcoming call for questions.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rude Drunk People & Why You Don't Want Them On Your Team

by Mindy McGinnis

First off, I want to be quite clear that it's very possible to be drunk and not rude, and also to be rude and not drunk. I have nothing against drunk people, but I do dislike rude people. This is just a general, for the record comment before I get to my point. Ahem...

There's been a lot of talk among authors lately about about the usefulness of street teams as a form of marketing and promotion. In theory, I like this idea. It's grassroots, it's out-of-the-box, it's people telling people about books, and hey—that's what I do for a living in the 40/wk.

But there's a drawback to street teams that I want to mention here, as it's relevant to our nation in general at the moment.

I live in a swing state. Anyone in Ohio will tell you that if we took all the political ads in our mailboxes alone and mashed them into paper mache we could have a decent facsimile of the Trojan Horse. It goes without saying that the TV, radio, billboards and yard signs are as clogged with political yeas and nays and Vote This Way Not That Way information than the nose of the average person with a sinus infection.

And then there's the people—the campaign teams of citizens who are donating their time to promote the ideals of someone they believe in, to raise the awareness of their candidate and platform. And good for them, I applaud the people out there who have that kind of conviction and selflessness to do that.

Except for the ones who are kind of assholes about it.

Not that long ago I went out to eat and as I was walking through the parking lot a carload of young political types came roaring through, a big fat sticker on the passenger door of their car loudly proclaiming who they supported. They drove too fast in the parking lot and parked crooked so that whoever was next to them had to slide through about two inches of space in order to get into their own car (no doubt noticing the sticker as they did so). Then the group went into the restaurant, drawing attention to themselves even as they walked by nature of how loud and abrasive they were, particularly their laughter, clearly designed to broadcast exactly how much fun they were having and precisely how clever they all were.

And trust me, they weren't.

And then the behavior continued inside, where they got nice and drunk and everything went up a notch, except of course the cleverness which continued to degrade.

Here's the thing. I'm not a prude. I get drunk. I can be loud. I know that in their minds these people were off the clock and just out being young and awesome. Their goal of having fun had no political agenda—but the car they were driving automatically associated them with someone who needed to make a good impression on the public, and the connections being made by that particular group on that particular night with that particular candidate were not so positive.

I think for authors street teams are open to the same connotations. Especially as debuts, we're excited to have people who want to promote us. It has so many attractions—free labor, word-of-mouth for audiences beyond or below your age range, no geographic limitations, etc. But you can't control the actions of your volunteers. Even your most enthusiastic reader and supporter might make a side comment to her friend that a pedestrian overhears and dislikes. What will they remember? The face of the girl, or her words in connection with the shiny swag with your name on it?

I'm still split on the idea of street teams for this reason.

What are your thoughts?

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, a post-apocalyptic survival tale, Not a Drop to Drink, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins in Fall 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the Thirteeners and The Lucky 13s. You can also find her on Twitter & Facebook.



In an upcoming post From The Write Angle contributors will answer your questions. What's it like to "get the call" either from an agent or a publisher? How do I get my MS in to Hollywood? How do historical writers do all of that research? 

What are your questions for our contributors? Keep an eye out for our upcoming call for questions. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And 3 More Twitter Hashtags

by Jemi Fraser

Wow! You folks are amazing. I've learned a lot about hashtags over the past couple of posts! If you'd like to see the first 2 posts in this hashtag series, check them out here and here.

1. #writetip, #editingtips, #pubtip & #querytip

I hadn't thought of leaving TweetDeck columns open for these hashtags, but several of you have mentioned them and they're great! I think their names are self-explanatory - give them a try & see what you find!

2. #nano, #nanowrimo, #wordsprints & @NaNowordsprints

It's November, so these are appropriate right now. If you don't know about National Novel Writing Month, check it out. It's a great place to meet other writers crazy enough to write a first draft of 50k in 30 days. I've participated in NaNo several times now and it's always a lot of fun - and very productive. Most days, you can find people willing to do word sprints with you to boost that word count. These sprints can be for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Sometimes they'll even throw in a dare to include in your sprint. Last year's "add a wild animal" dare added a great scene to my novel!

3. #mywana

I learned about this from the lovely Darke Conteur. WANA stands for We Are Not Alone. It's similar to the #amwriting hashtag in that it's a conversation place for writers - a great place to find other writers and the support we all need from each other.

I THINK this will be my last hashtag post for a while, but if you've got any further suggestions, let me know! And if you're a fellow NaNo nut, add me as a buddy - we need all the support we can get! I'm jemifraser over there too :)

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of romantic mysteries. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.


In an upcoming post From The Write Angle contributors will answer your questions. What's it like to "get the call" either from an agent or a publisher? How do I get my MS in to Hollywood? How do historical writers do all of that research?

What are your questions for our contributors? Keep an eye out for our upcoming call for questions.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SUBJECTIVE is Not a Dirty Word

by J. Lea López

How many times have you heard this: The publishing industry is so subjective. Probably a lot. Maybe enough to make you want to tear your hair out and wonder if, by subjective, someone is trying to tell you you'll never be published. I know people for whom publishing being a subjective business is a reason for hope, and others for whom it is a reason to despair.

After all, it isn't really that much of a leap from subjective to sheer luck, is it? I'm sure many writers feel that way. The thought that you just have get lucky enough to find the right agent or editor at the right time, with the right manuscript, in the right market can certainly be disheartening.

But I don't think it's quite so random as that, and I really believe that the inherent subjectivity of the publishing industry should be a source of hope more often than not. While I'm still unagented and unpublished as far as my novels go, I recently had an experience in subjectivity that I hope will be as inspiring to you as it is for me.

Last week I received a rejection letter that made me giddy with joy.

Wait a minute. Hold up. Giddy with joy??? From a rejection? Yep, you read that correctly. A small press editor was reading my manuscript as the result of a contest. At first it was a partial, then a full. Naturally, I was pretty damn excited to see where it would go. A week and a half after I sent the full, I got her response. (I was impressed with her response time!) I've already said it was a pass, but it was one of those ones all writers covet and hope to receive - the kind with feedback.

She told me what she loved and didn't love, and the exact part of the manuscript that didn't quite do it for her and ultimately resulted in her passing on it. But she liked my writing and encouraged me to submit again with other projects. How could I not want to frame that letter and hang it on my wall?

It's also important to note that this editor requested the manuscript after reading my query and first 150 words in a contest. This was the same 150 words that was the first page I submitted to an agent and editor panel at the Baltimore Book Festival in September. No one on the panel liked that first page. No one. Including an agent who was on my potential to-query list.

It was that first page that got the interest of an editor, and even though she did pass on it, the positive things she had to say reinforced my faith that there is a good fit for my manuscript out there. As harsh as it may sound, we have to remember that despite striving for our own unique voice and style, putting our own twists on plots and characters, we are still not SO unique that finding an agent or editor to take on our projects is a literal crap shoot. If we were really that unique, finding readers wouldn't be easy either.

The publishing industry is subjective, so make sure you know and love your story and that you can stand by it. It will take work, and sure, it might even take a tiny bit of luck, but there is an agent and/or editor who will fall in love with your writing. Without a bit of subjectivity, publishing would be terribly boring and homogenous, so worry not.  

Subjective is not a dirty word. I know all of those already, trust me. *wink*

J. Lea López is a writer with a penchant for jello and a loathing for writing bios. Find her on Twitter or her blog, Jello World. She has had some short stories published, most recently in the anthologies The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse and Spring Fevers.


In an upcoming post, From The Write Angle contributors will answer your questions. What's it like to "get the call" either from an agent or a publisher? How do I get my MS in to Hollywood? How do historical writers do all of that research?

What are your questions for our contributors? Keep an eye out for our upcoming call for questions.